Canal frozen and we are going nowhere
We moored at Wolverton to do a shop at Tesco after leaving Target turn. We have never spent a night here as we have heard several stories about the people in the flats falling out with boaters. Apparently some boats run their engines and generators late at night and the smoke from their boats fires goes into the flats. we have also been told of boats having items thrown onto their boats from the flats above including lit cigarette ends. With all the wood and coal on our roof a lit cigarette thrown onto it would be a disaster.
After leaving Tesco moorings we left Woolverton and headed towards Cosgrove where we will stay for a week or two. Its handy here for the station as Carolyn headed back down to Devon for a few days over Christmas while i stayed aboard Inca.
With Carolyn down in Devon it was good to have Stewart and Fran moored close by. We met up every day for walkies and coffee. I think Fran has got a few tips from Carolyn and is trying to find a final resting place for Stewart like Carolyn is for me.
This is something i do not understand. The first 160 meters below the lock at Cosgrove are designated winter moorings. The boaters pay over £100 extra a month on top of their licence fee to moor here for up to 5 months over the winter period. So with over 2000 miles of canals plus countless lakes and ponds in the area why do they have a fishing match right through the moorings. There is no hook up for the boats to get electric ,so they have to run their engines for several hours every day. Guess what happened when a boat started his engine to charge his batteries , that's right the Anglers start moaning. Its no wonder a lot of Anglers and boaters don't get on …
You may remember back in October that Mick Betts made us some fenders for the front of Inca to protect the bow and cratch cover. The fenders are such a success that we decided to ask Mick to make us some more to protect the stern. Yet again Mick did a brilliant job at a very good price , he can be contacted on 07816541868 .
With temperatures as low as minus three over several days it was no surprise that the canal froze over. Fortunately Jules on her coal boat with Richard and Ryan breaks through the ice to deliver coal and diesel. We filled with diesel and had a couple more bags of coal ,just to keep stocks up. The price of diesel is now down to 75 pence a litre which is a real bonus as we are running the engine for several hours every day.
With Carolyn now back from Devon we are going to spend a few days here and wait for the ice to melt. We could travel through the ice but we would face the risk of the blacking coming off and thus loosing our hull protection. After all the money we spent on the hull back in April with having the hull metalized and blacked with 2 pack we just wont take the risk. We have plenty of time to get through Braunston before the flight of locks are closed for maintenance work on the 12th of January.
I love anything that is free. All this fishing tackle didn't cost me a penny. It all came from the trees and bushes on the off side of the canal during the last few weeks. Those poor anglers cast out and get tangled up and then break their line ,thus loosing their gear. Along comes me on Inca and Bobs your uncle ,freebies. Just the ticket !!
There's been a lot of trouble in the past week with low levels of water in the pound between Stoke Hammond lock and Fenny Stratford lock and all the moored boats drying out on their moorings. We were told that someone on two occasions within 4 days had left the paddles open at Fenny lock and drained the pound. On Saturday we pulled pins at 08.30 and when we arrived at the lock one of the paddles had been left open on the bottom gates overnight. The lock gates at the top do leak a bit ,so a certain amount of water had drained through the lock. There has been a few problems with some of the locals recently and it would appear some of the residents don't like boaters and boats . So, why do they buy a house next to the canal ???
I spy with my little eye free heat. There was more wood than we could carry and it was down a bank and about 50 yards from Inca , but it was well worth the effort. We have had to put 7 bags of coal into the cratch as there was so much weight going onto the roof. I'm not sure how much weight you can put on the roof before it becomes unstable, but we have seen some boats with a lot more on their roofs than we have.
With it all sawn up into lengths that would go on the roof we ended up with a few weeks worth of freebie heat. With the Towpath tidied up and the wood on the roof ready to be logged up at a later date we are on our way again.
There's not many days go by without us seeing a Kingfisher. But we still get so excited every time we see one and we saw this one as we travelled through Milton Keynes. After 3 hours cruising we are now moored at Giffard Park and we will have a day or two here ,then move on towards Wolverton to do our Christmas shop
After a few days above Church lock we dropped down into Leighton Buzzard and spent a couple of days moored just outside the town , but within easy walking distance for her Ladyship to get her retail therapy. One thing we always do before leaving Leighton is to pull around onto the Tesco moorings and fill up with heavy items. The Tesco store is built on the site where Morgan and company's works was used to assemble the WW1 Vickers Vimy which was a 2 engine bomber. As you can see the weather vane on the top of the store is in the shape of the Vimy bomber.
Of course the heavy items we buy are mainly Alcohol related and with Christmas coming soon it would be silly not to stock up. Its also the last time that we will be very close to a large supermarket . As we head North in the new year and turn left at Norton junction and down to Braunston and then north onto the Oxford canal, the next big supermarket near to the canal will be at Brownsover in Rugby. There are plenty of small village stores on the way which we do use , but sometimes you just need to do a big shop , well that's what Carolyn tells me. Of course there's always the Tesco delivery if we get desperate.
After leaving Leighton we had a day at Stoke Hammond and then on Friday after very high winds on Thursday we pulled pins at 09.10 and cruised towards Fenny Stratford. We passed this boat and its one of the most daftest exhaust setups I've ever seen. What happens when he goes through a lock ? or maybe he's a continuous moorer and never moves.
Soon after mooring near the winding hole at Fenny ,Gary came along on his coal boat Ascot. After a cuppa and a chat we filled up with diesel and coal. The price of diesel is now lower than it has been in over 5 years which is great news for us as we are running the engine for longer everyday to charge the batteries. We now have half a ton of coal on board and if we can find some decent amounts of wood it should see us through to the end of the winter (fingers crossed). We will have a day or two here before moving on and passing through Milton Keynes.
After a night at Pitstone we pulled pins and dropped down eight locks and on to a mooring we like above Church lock. As we were mooring up we saw this little chap (we think its a Stoat) looking at us from a hole in the Towpath. He seemed very friendly and was very inquisitive.
We came across this on one of our walks .It looks like a normal Railway bridge were some idiot has fly tipped a load of builders waste. But it is in fact the location of The Great Train Robbery which was carried out in 1963. At the time they got away with two and a half million pounds which would be equivalent to fifty million pounds at todays rates.
With the ice all gone on Monday morning and in glorious sunshine we pulled pins at 09.10 and dropped down the 2 locks and picked up a mooring in Leighton Buzzard. And it wasn't long before we hit the shops. We will have a couple of days here to restock the cupboards and for Carolyn to get some retail therapy before moving on again.
We pulled pins from Cowroast at 09.30 with a cold wind and a very overcast sky and after filling with water and dumping waste we passed this lovely pair of FMC boats and headed across Tring summit towards the Marsworth flight of locks.
Coming down the Marsworth flight and every lock is against us (empty when we get to it) . Repairs have been done to some of the locks , but as you can see only half a job has been done (Bodge). Maybe its meant as a temporary fix that usually turns into a permanent fix.
This will be interesting. The building of houses on the old British Waterways site at Marsworth is nearing completion. They have so far taken away the refuge disposal point and put bins further down the canal, so now and that leaves just the Elsan and water point. I wonder how long it will be before the new residents start kicking off and moaning about the boats stopping and emptying their toilets next to their lovely new homes.
We picked up this hitchhiker on the way to Pitstone and then after three and a half hours and only passing one other moving boat we finally arrive at our destination. Although its very cold it has to be one of the best times of the year to be travelling on the system. We will have a night here and then move on again in the morning .
With the real cold winter weather now well and truly with us we are running the stove a lot hotter and that means more fuel is required. That's ok when there is plenty of free fire wood , but at the moment we are really struggling to find any. So we stocked up with coal when we had a visit from Jules on her coal boat. If we just burn coal we are using 2 bags a week with the stove running 24/7. That's keeping the inside of the boat with an average temperature of 23 deg C in the front and dropping to about 19 deg C at the back of the boat in the bedroom. We now have 16 bags of Homefire oval coals on the roof. There are a couple of issues with it being on the roof, the first is how easy it is to steal and at over £12 a bag you can see how burglar bill would be tempted and there is no real way of making it more secure. The other thing that happens with all that weight on the roof is that once the boat starts to rock from side to side the weight of the coal acts like a pendulum and we just keep A rockin and a rollin.
This is one for my ex work colleagues at SWW…I hope your pump stations are being kept in better condition than this one. The picture actually makes it look better than it really is. I can still vaguely remember operating similar stations in the distant past…
With all that heat coming from the stove it makes sense to cook on it. With a casserole on the top and Potatoes wrapped in silver foil in the ash pan its a great and cheap way to cook dinner on a cold winters day.
It was only thin cat ice and by mid morning it had all gone. With daily temperatures starting to drop and the wind-chill making it feel like near zero we will stay here at Cowroast for an extra day or two. With the temperature inside Inca averaging 23 deg C and with good TV and Internet we are as snug as a bug in a rug.
After what seemed like weeks, although it wasn't even a week it was time to leave Berkhamsted. Carolyn probably would have stayed longer as she really enjoyed the Town with its diversity of shops. Being within 30 minutes of London on the train it is a very up market town with property prices to match. Half a million wouldn't buy you very much in Berkhamsted ,so i don't think we will retire from boating to this town although we both like the place.
On Saturday we did a shop in Waitrose and on the end of an aisle this guy set up a small stall selling curved nail files. We thought we recognised him from TV and we soon discovered that it was Tom Pellereaou the winner of The Apprentice in 2011 with Alan Sugar. He won £250,000 worth of investment money from Sir Alan. I must admit i was surprised to see him selling to members of the public like that in Waitrose. I suppose it could of been worse, he could have been in Tesco.
On Sunday morning we pulled pins and headed straight for the water point . We had gone over a week and were starting to get low. On the way to the water point there were several anglers in what looked like a fishing match. As we got to the water point there was one angler fishing on the first bollard and one on the last. As we pulled in on tick over we could see that they were not happy as they both gave us dirty looks. Carolyn said “hello” to the first angler and he responded by saying ”I suppose you want water” in a very stern voice and then looked away. I should have revved the engine and worked the Bow thruster to really mess up their fishing , but i didn't. I don't know why they are so miserable and they seem to be worse the further you go South. I have said before how i was once told they are so miserable because they have ugly nagging wives at home and they go fishing to get away from them. But i don't believe that , I just think they are
a bit ignorant .
There we go and no bow thruster ….I must be getting good at this turning lark…. Just as Carolyn is getting good at taking photos. It was then back up through the lock and going back pass all those lovely anglers. And were they pleased to see us !!!! NOT
We are now back at Cowroast for a couple of days. I have a bit of work to do on the electrics and re-wiring the TV and recorder box.I have also decided to take out the satellite box as we never use it, especially since buying our small Log periodic aerial. It has never let us down and we still get a good picture even in the most remote areas of the canal network.
After arriving at Berkhamsted we picked up this mooring on the park side of the canal. There were a couple of spare moorings on the towpath side ,but the mud was so bad we opted for the off side. I am not sure if we are allowed to moor here or not as there are no signs to tell you not to and there are boats moored on this side further up.
We both enjoy visiting and spending time in Berkhamsted so we will probably spend a few days here before winding below the lock and then heading back North. With plenty of shops and our favourite pub wetherspoons just over the canal we will be ok here.